We’re into the yearlong cycle of “lasts” before Daughter goes to college – it takes nine months to gestate a baby, so why not a year to prepare for her departure? – and this weekend was our last soccer tournament as parents.
I have to admit: This is one aspect of parenting that I won’t miss.
First there is the sitting and waiting.
We got there an hour early on Saturday so the team could warm up, and then there was about 75 minutes of playing, and then another four hours of waiting until the next game and then another 75 minutes of playing. We were at this field in the middle of suburban nowhere from 11 am until 7:15 pm. The sun went down and the field lights came on. A day of great, healthy activity for the kids; a day of complete inactivity for the parents.
Then there is the freezing.
Saturday started out lovely – warm sun, slight breeze so it was not the 90-degree beating heat that had seemed likely all week. But then the slight breeze grew. And grew. By mid-afternoon, the fog had rolled in and the breeze was a howling wind and the parents were wrapped in blankets and borrowed sweatshirts, huddling smaller and smaller in our folding chairs that would blow over if we stood up, while the girls ran around practicing their moves and we… sat and waited.
Then there is the anxiety.
Finally, after all the sitting and waiting and shivering and huddling, you get to watch a soccer game. But this isn’t exactly like kicking back with a beer in a sports bar. Your child’s team is getting creamed. Or maybe not creamed, but beaten. Or maybe they’re winning, but it’s pretty close and they could lose their lead any minute now. And your child is such an enthusiastic player but no one is passing the ball to her. Or they’re passing to her but she’s not managing to take any goal shots. Or that big player on the opposing team keeps pushing her. (That’s a foul! That’s really a foul! And why isn’t the &#$#!# ref calling it!) The team asks for parent volunteers to bring water and fruit and the equipment bags each week; why not Valium?
* * * * *
There’s no question that soccer has been great for Daughter. Neither Sam nor I were remotely athletic as kids. My mercifully short history with team sports was the classic stand-in-the-outfield-and-pray-the-ball-doesn’t-come-anywhere-near-you. So this is an area where Daughter has far surpassed both of us. There are so many benefits to team sports, especially for girls – it fosters resilience, perseverance, teamwork, and a positive relationship to one’s body, as well as fitness. Daughter is a good player but not a star, and I’m really happy she managed to continue playing through all of high school, past the point around middle school where a lot of the non-star players tend to drop out.
And one of her first soccer games will always remain frozen in my mind, an emblem of childhood. Daughter and her teammates were little, maybe seven years old, and it was one of their first games, and these pint-sized figures in baggy shorts were running around confusedly on the field, and I found myself rooting out loud for my child with shouts that were not just about soccer. I was cheering for her not just to make physical contact with the ball or manage to kick it toward the correct goal, but as I looked out onto the field and shouted “Go Daughter!” with all my lung capacity, I was shouting for her to be smart and be strong and be happy and do well in school and do well in life and find love and find meaning and thrive.
She was out there on that playing field, and I was watching from afar. I’d set her loose in the world and now all I could do was cheer.
So all that is good. Soccer has been good. Her coach (thank you Tom!) and team (go Cheetahs!) have been great.
But still, this is one part of parenting that I am not going to miss.